Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tarot, Lottery and Fractals

A question I encounter a lot, on occasion asked seriously, is "do you have the winning lottery numbers?" The short (and not sarcastic answer) is no, I don't. But doesn't the Tarot predict the future? Well, yes and no. Consider why this may be the case. What are we dealing with in the future? We have a great potential- the future is not yet defined until we actually settle down and make a decision. Those familiar with Erwin Schrodinger's famous hypothetical cat will realize that this is, in many ways, why the future is probable but not a given. There are no such things as zero probabilities (that is, in the combined lifespans of this and all universes, something that will never occur, not once) and absolute givens (that which in that same time span will always occur without exception.) Now back to Schrodinger's Cheshire cat- it's alive and dead until such time as it is observed; it goes from a possibility to a concrete reality. There are an incredible number of variables to calculate, even in such an insular and small example as this one. The fact is this- of course there are mathematics that exist to define such a scenario. But that being the case, we simply don't have the calculating power, either in our own marvelous brains or in that which our marvelous brains have constructed, to even approach this kind of calculating power. There are just too many variables. We just don't know which variables are going to be ruled out and which are not.
Going back to the mathematics involved for a second, let's consider that the world is indeed defined by mathematics; simply put that which can be quantified (given numbers) can then be understood in terms of how those mathematics work. The resulting equation then defines how a given phenomenon, event or what have you works in the real world. These mathematics are not nice neat little linear equations, however. They are big, funky nonlinear equations, and are the very same ones used to create fractals, which are trippy artistic renderings of the same equations. One of them is the Mandelbrot set. These equations do not, as the name suggests, resolve into a nice neat little line. They go everywhere, producing complex patterns that nonetheless have at their heart the same equations. Here is an example of a few points plotted with a nonlinear equation- the line through them produces a rough approximation of how the points behave, but is not a perfect fit.
What about those points way out there on their own, on the left side of the curve? Surely the line will not account for them. However, keep in mind this is on a small scale. What happens when we plot millions and millions of points, creating a pattern? Ah, then things get trippy and artistic:

Basically, what's going on here is that on a larger scale, such as one we encounter in the real world, and especially in our lives, we find that things fall into a nice neat little pattern. In terms of our human experience, we find that there are a lot of little variables that cancel each other out. Hold a pencil up in the air as a for example. Let go. I'll use my incredible psychic powers and say the pencil fell towards the earth, courtesy of gravity. But consider again all those variables- isn't it possible that just one of them could have set up a chain reaction of even more variables, and the pencil could have, say, grown wings, caught fire, embedded itself in the wall, or any of a number of possibilities, albeit slim ones. The fact is, these smaller variables cancel each other out on a scale as large and complex as dropping a pencil.
So isn't the lottery equally a complex system? Indeed, it is. However, predicting one specific number is much more difficult, again because of these variables. Predicting a range of numbers, say between 1 and 5, is perhaps not as difficult, though still a daunting task. Lottery balls are generally numbered on a much broader scale than 1 to 5, and with this larger scale we are faced with increasingly complex numbers of variables. The question really being asked when someone asks for the winning lottery numbers are is rather what is the probability of any given number coming up? And this gets pretty difficult to predict.
Tarot in turn relies on predicting more of an overall pattern- variables, as we can see, on a larger scale tend to fall into more predictable patterns, and keep in mind that this in essence leaves out a whole lot of variables that again, simply cancel each other out. So we're left with the more likely outcomes, which of course are affected by the choices we make.
Perhaps most importantly, keep in mind we are not simply Fate's puppets, without control over our own destinies. The choices we make are always ours, and it's these same choices that affect what comes next- from one set of choices, we are led to another, and so on down the line. Tarot is most useful in examining what the outcome of a given choice may be- not making that choice for you, and allowing you an edge in understanding what your options are, and how best to utilize the resources you have.

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